Stuart A. Hurd | All About Town: Police report, mask wearing, and progress on major projects
The Select Board, town, and police leadership are now moving forward with Curtis Reed Jr. of the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity and his associate, Dr. Mary Gannon, in response to the International Association of Chiefs of Police report. The goal is to "reimagine the IACP action plan to provide for greater community involvement," to "create joint town- and community-driven vision and mission statements for the Bennington Police Department," and to research civilian review boards and community policing in rural communities. The proposal uses community members to do the research and development of what these efforts might look like. This is projected to be a six-month effort. The Board hopes to fully engage the community in this effort.
The governor has continued the COVID emergency to July 15, 2020. He continues to loosen restrictions he imposed to minimize the COVID 19 impacts. For its part, the town has passed a mask resolution to encourage everyone, employees and customers, to wear masks when social distancing isn't possible. Those who are exercising, or who can't wear a mask due to medical conditions are not required to wear the mask. I encourage everyone to wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart whenever possible, and wash your hands regularly. We, in Vermont, have done a pretty good job keeping the virus somewhat at bay. Unfortunately, it's not over so be careful; stay safe; stay healthy.
Engineering continues on the project to remove lead service lines from all properties in Bennington. This process will be long and involved, but the funding is secured. If you are contacted by the engineers, please respond. It will move the project to fruition that much faster.
Construction projects are now fully underway, respecting the governor's restrictions of course. The Putnam Block, the UCS addition for Head Start at the Recreation Center, the Bennington Brush building, the former Middle School, all projects that will have very positive impacts on the downtown and the community are now moving forward, albeit safely and with care.
The Wastewater Treatment Facility upgrade has now reached substantial completion. The contractor has returned to the site to deal with a lengthy punch list. Our employees are familiarizing themselves with the many new facets of the plant and its operations. Everything seems to be coming together nicely. New fencing will be placed along Harrington Road to keep the site secure.
All PFOA related contracts are underway in the northeasterly quadrant of the community. These projects will deliver municipal water to many of the homes impacted by PFOA in the groundwater. It is expected that these projects will be completed early in 2021 barring any unforeseen circumstances.
At a special meeting on June 15, the Select Board adopted the FY2021 Water and Sewer Fund budgets. We are projecting a 0 percent increase in the water rates and an 8 percent increase in the sewer rates. Originally, the Board had set a 10.5 percent maximum increase in the sewer rates to ensure that we stayed on track with depreciation and reserves. Action by the state to waive administrative and interest costs from the borrowings has allowed us to return that benefit to the ratepayer. This increase will add $9 to the quarterly bill. In these difficult financial times, residents and businesses who are suffering financially can make an agreement with the town to pay over time.
Remember, if anyone has any questions or suggestions arising from this column or on any town matters, please contact me at 442-1037 or stop in at the Town Offices on South Street.
Stuart Hurd is Bennington's town manager. He writes a monthly column on town issues.
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